Potentials of virtual endless aisles

Study by Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences interviews salespeople and experts in the stationary fashion and shoe trade about the advantages and possible uses of shelf extension systems

Who does not know this situation, in the shop one looks for a trousers or a top in his size. However, it often fails because you either can’t find the object of desire or your own size is already sold out. What now? Go home disappointed without an article?

That doesn’t have to be! Virtual endless aisles make it possible that this scenario could soon run differently. With a virtual endless aisle, the salesperson can reorder the customer’s desired article directly on the sales floor in the right size, in a different color or simply out of stock. With the help of the endless shelf, the salesperson not only has insight into his own warehouse, but also into the warehouse availability of the supplier. A few days later, the item can then be picked up in the store. This makes not only the customer happy, but also the seller and the supplier.

Due to the constant development and the strong competition with the online trade, new challenges arise especially for the stationary fashion trade. The stationary trade is confronted with a shift in market shares, declining customer frequency and digital innovations. This has made it particularly important to make the best possible use of existing customer frequency. Due to the limited sales area and a limited assortment, customers often experience a lack of sizes, colors or the article in general. This problem can be countered with a shelf extension system.

35% of sales calls end without a purchase because the desired item is not in stock.

In a survey conducted by Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences of around 729 salespeople in the clothing and shoe trade, 35 per cent stated that the sales talk ended without a conclusion because the desired color or size was not available in the shop. A further 35 percent of those surveyed already fail because the complete article is missing. For this reason, customers often leave a store frustrated and disappointed and order the item online later. One way of compensating for this disadvantage is now offered by shelf extension systems. “The more inventory a shelf extension system makes available, the greater the likelihood of generating additional sales and satisfying customers” (Oliver Janz, author of the study).


The technical development of stationary trading is the basis for competitiveness.

The application possibilities of a virtual shelf extension include both “Save the sale”, i.e. the reordering of missing sizes and colours for the customer, and “Endless aisle”, the fulfilment of a specific customer wish. The majority of participating vendors (88%) regard shelf extension systems as the basis for the future viability of stationary retailing. Likewise, 95 percent of the participants consider the re-ordering of missing sizes and colours to be useful, and 83 percent of the participants consider the presentation and re-ordering of missing articles for the customer via mobile devices to be useful.

In particular, the pick-up rates for repeat orders via virtual shelf extensions speak for themselves; these are usually between 75-90 percent. Managing director Uwe Hollstein of the fashion house Rummel emphasizes the “three valuable contact points to get to know the customer” and to build up a relationship with him through increased communication. (cf. Uwe Hollstein, p.44.)

“In the future, the customer will expect an order option and ask employees specifically for it.” (Johannes Stockmann, Process Manager – L+T, p.62.)

Shelf extensions have great potential, especially in terms of customer satisfaction and customer loyalty in stationary retail. The study by Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences clearly highlights the relevance of shelf extension systems for the future. The supplier-spanning shelf extension offers the stationary fashion and shoe trade the opportunity to compete with the online trade. The decisive contact points created between the salesperson and the customer and the positive connotation through the unique shopping experience strengthen the image and competitiveness of the stationary fashion and shoe trade.

Want to know more about virtual shelf extensions? Then have a look at the entire study of the Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences.

See the study here